By Simon ManchesterSunday 29 Jan 2023Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
Before we pray together. I just want to say thank you very much to any who prayed for us while we’re away. I think it would be hard to measure the value of speaking to pastors who speak to hundreds and thousands of people. So thank you for praying. I did ask you to pray for gut health, which I think we had over our travels. And except for one little hitch, it was perfect. Flawless. So we’re very thankful. Now let’s ask God to help us. Let’s put our heads together, Father, we thank you for your great goodness to us. Thank you for this day. Thank you for the minutes we have now to think about your truth, your promises and we pray that you would help us. Please help me to speak faithfully and usefully, help us to listen humbly and profitably. And we pray Heavenly Father, that what we learn today would be lived out to your praise and we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.
We are beginning this morning, Dear friends, a little series of four on the unstoppable plans of God. I do not know if you have the ability to get done exactly what you want to get done. But I do not have the ability and especially in Ministry. Ministry is not easy. Church progress is not easy.
A friend of mine says he’s going to write a book on church ministry being a minister, and it’s going to be called catching fish feeding sheep and herding cats and the subtitle Reaching, Teaching and Screeching. And there’s some great truth in that progress in the church can be very slow and tortuous, especially where the scriptures unknown or laid aside.
Some people, of course, can get there well done very easily. You think of the dictator who uses great force to get exactly what he wants done or think of the genius person who can organise something like the Queen’s funeral, and it just looks flawless, perfect.
But the supreme example of somebody who can get done what they want to do is God himself, full of power and love. And we’re going to focus for this month on one verse in the New Testament, and it’s the verse Romans 8:30. It’s got four words in the verse, and we’re going to look at one word each Sunday and we’re going to see that God has plans from eternity to eternity, and he knows how to do what he has planned to do. Romans 8 as you may know, is probably the most famous and loved chapter in the New Testament. John Stott says it reaches heights unequalled in the Scriptures. This is the chapter where Paul faces the question of whether the Gospel of Jesus Christ really can answer big questions like suffering and death.
And the answer of the chapter is yes, I had the great privilege yesterday. I’m going to visit a lady in the Northern beaches who I knew to be dying. I arrived at three o’clock. I was able to read to her from God’s word and prayed with her and remind her of Christ master over the grave, having taken the sting of the grave and she died at five o’clock. I saw her at three. She died at five o’clock, passed into the presence of Christ because the gospel is the power of God to salvation. As Paul is leading up to Verse 30 which is our text, he says in Verse 28 that God is at work. Yes, God is at work. He’s not asleep in all things. There is not a single thing outside his control that he’s working for good. Believe it or not, he’s working for a masterpiece and for those who love him, meaning those who have been saved and changed.
So on the subject of suffering, which is what this chapter is very much about, John Piper says that God has two cameras on suffering. One camera is the close up that is, he sees what’s happening, and he feels what’s happening. But the other camera of God is the broad focus where he can see where the whole thing is going.
Think, for example, of the cross of Christ. God sees his son suffering, but with the broad camera, he sees exactly what’s taking place salvation to the world. Now we tend to focus on the close up, but today and these next weeks we’re going to look at the big picture in Chapter eight, Verse 30 and we read, as I say, God plans everything from before the creation right through to the new creation. This is what Chapter eight, Verse 30 says those who, God predestined.
He also called and those he called he justified and those he justified, he glorified.
This verse has been called the Golden Chain. It describes God at work before creation, right through to the new creation. I want us to consider for a few minutes this morning the first word predestined. What does it mean to be predestined? Why should we value this? How should we respond to it? First of all, predestined. What does it mean when the Bible says that God predestined as his people, it means that he plans our destiny? He plans where we will finish, just like the parent planning a holiday for the family. Where will we go? How will we get there? God predestined his people.
Or think of a man who decides at a whim that he’s going to train pigeons. He has absolutely nothing. And so he builds a massive cage, and then he begins to breed and feed and train pigeons. And then he releases them from the cage and they fly off to the destination that he has chosen. So God, you see plans. The creation raises up his people and takes them to the place where he wants them. to go, Paul tells us in Romans eight, Verse 29 that God chose to love his people. As we heard in the first reading. It had not so much to do with us, nothing really to do with us. But God chose to love his people, and he chose to Destin his people verse 30. Now this word tends to worry people.
It worries people in church. It sounds unjust. Why would God Destin some people? It also sounds very controlling, as if our freedoms have been taken away. But friends, I want to tell you that predestination is not unjust, nor does it steamroll our freedoms. Don Carson says predestination can hurt your head if you use it as a stick to attack the wrong things. Jim Packer most helpfully says we should notice how the New Testament uses the word predestination.
How does the New Testament use the word predestination either to cause people to praise God, to thank him for coming to save us or to reassure us that he who has begun a work in us will continue and complete it, or to motivate Christians where Paul will say, you’ve been saved? This is how you should now think or live.
So predestination stay with me. Tells us that God looked at the world where people had no desire to seek him, no desire to serve him, no ability to seek him, no ability to serve him.
And just like Jesus coming to the tomb of Lazarus and saying Lazarus come out. God comes to the world and he speaks and he wakes people to a brand new life. And of course, those he wakes, he sustains. So God you see in predestination is glorified as he should be. He lies behind our salvation. Boasting is removed as it should be. And security comes home to us because we suddenly realised that God has begun a good work and if he has begun a good work, he’ll finish it.
One of the verses I hold on to his apparent and also as a pastor is Philippians 16, which says he who began a good work in you will carry it through to the day of completion. There are people that I worry about family members, church levers, and I hold on to this great promise that he began to work in those people will carry it through. And so just Friday night, I, speaking to a lady on the phone whose husband drifted off into adultery and unbelief, had nothing more that he wanted to do with Christ. But God had begun a work in him and brought him back sobbing to give up his foolish ways and follow Christ faithfully.
Now here’s the question we must ask on the subject of predestination. Does God just know who will believe? In other words, does he just look down the corridor of time and say, Those are the people who will respond? I know who they are, Or does he actually wake us up and enable us to believe? Let me put the question another way.
Does God drive a gospel bus through the world and just honk the horn of the bus and say, Come on to the bus if you want to? Or does God find people down the street dead, helpless, unable, unwilling, change them and bring them onto the bus?
And the answer is the second – those who he brings onto the bus he carries to the destination.
That’s what predestination means. Now, let me tell you secondly, why we should value this subject. One. It’s in our Bibles. I understand there are 48 references to God electing or predestiny or choosing, and therefore we cannot cut this out and just say we don’t like it.
For example, Ephesians 1 says, praise be to the God and father who predestined us for adoption. To the praise of His Glorious Grace, this doctrine is also in our Anglican prayer books. You may not know this, but at the back of every Anglican prayer book there’s something called the 39 articles. These are kind of the foundation doctrines of the Anglican Church. Article 10 says this – a man or a woman cannot turn themselves to God without the grace of God working in them.
Article 17 says predestination is the everlasting purpose of God to deliver and bring by Christ to everlasting salvation.
And it goes on to say, this is a sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort to godly persons. So it’s in the Bible. It’s in the prayer book. We’ve got to grapple with this great doctrine. Second, we know that we do believe in predestination because when we become Christians, when we get saved, we thank God for doing what we couldn’t do. We find ourselves saying something like this. Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was blind. We might say I once was dead spiritually dead. But now I’m found. Now I’m alive through the grace of God.
The other reason that we do believe in this doctrine is because we pray for God to save people. We pray that God would do for people what we cannot do for them and what they cannot do for themselves. So, my friends, if you do this morning, trust Christ for salvation. Ask yourself, Why do I trust Christ for salvation? And the answer is not because I’ve lived a good life. We’ve not lived a good life.
It’s not because of external forces. You know. Our family made us the church made us school, made me baptism changed me. Communion changes me. None of those external things will save a person because lots of people experience all of those but never become Christians. It’s not a question of high tech or low IQ. There are some people who think that the Christian is an extremely simple person.
But I’ve discovered in my nearly 50 years of being a Christian that probably the brightest people I’ve ever met are Christians.
Oh no, it’s got to do with God’s grace God working in us. So as we trace our faith, we trace it back to the mercy and the grace of God. There’s no other explanation. Here’s another question. Does that mean that people in Sydney should just sit around waiting for God to come and wake them?
Does this mean we’re helpless and hopeless and there’s nothing we can do? And we can all say to God, Well, there’s nothing I can do. I’m just going to sit here until you make me a Christian Bible says that we are absolutely responsible to take up the information that he has given us.
So the creation points people to Christ points people to God. The conscience points people to God. Christ points people to God. Scripture points people to God. Sin points people to God. Death points people to God.
And the Bible is full of invitations to the world in which we live. Where God says something like this come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest or the Bible says. Turn and live. Believe on Christ.
Enter the open door. Receive Christ. Call to be saved. The Bible is always appealing to us to take up what God has given us. So we have to hold together with our two hands one. And I’ll say this a couple of times that God is completely necessary to our salvation and that we are completely responsible to call on him.
God is completely necessary to our salvation. That’s one train track running through the Bible, and we are completely responsible to call on him. That’s another train track running through the Bible, and these two train tracks run through the Bible.
They’re not contradictory, but we can’t see where they connect. We can only see the train tracks running into the distance, and maybe in heaven, we’ll see how the whole thing connects. Somebody has said that when you become a Christian, it’s like walking through an archway and you see over the archway, enter and be saved. And so you walk through and you look back and on the other side of the archway, it says, saved by grace.
And that’s the responsibility that we have and the work of God in the background. Thirdly, predestination. How should we respond? You might say to yourself, Say to yourself this morning, What’s this God for me? How is this going to be useful?
Well, first of all, we must get in the habit of thanking and glorifying God, because without his initiative, we would be in the dark spiritually in the dark. Second, we must be comforted because if your trust is in Jesus, it is a miracle.
It’s a work of God.
Becoming a Christian is not like choosing your breakfast cereal. Becoming a Christian is a work that God works, and we, of course, respond. And what God has begun in you, he will finish. Has he caused you to believe in Christ? He will bring you home to be with Christ. He won’t stop halfway. He won’t falter in his plans. And then thirdly, we must be humbled.
We must find ourselves slightly amazed if not greatly amazed. The great missionary Henry Martin says that he once had a conversation with a non Christian, and we often I often have these conversations as well, and Henry Martin says after speaking to my friend of God’s mercy. He showed the most astonishing apathy, a cold and deliberate superiority grounded in unbelief that froze the blood in my heart.
And then Henry Martin says this well, what makes me different? I should be like him. It’s the mercy of God and those of us who have been brought to Christ. It’s the mercy and the miracle of God. Fourthly, friends be secure.
You haven’t been chosen because of your performance. God didn’t look at you and say, Well, this person has been great. I’ll save them. No, he saw us and he said They haven’t been great and I’ll save them And he didn’t look at us and say, I’ll save them and then they will be great. No, he saw us and he said, I’ll save them and they won’t be great that I’m going to save them through Christ. Not their performance, but his. And that’s what we rest on from the beginning of our Christian life to the day we meet him, what Christ has done for us and, fifthly, be active when we know that God is at work. Many people yet to be saved God has the power to save. He has the love to save, and he uses us in his purposes. He uses our prayers. He uses our words he uses are life.
It’s the greatest incentive to go on in his service, not to be lazy, not to be passive, but to be active and to be keen. Somebody has said it’s as if God is passing a great magnet over the world and all the iron filings will come up. He will cause it to happen and he uses us in his purposes. You have no idea how God will use you this week. Your prayer, your word, your example. You have no idea how God will use it, so be active now. Predestination raises many questions, and maybe over the morning tea today you’ll have worked out some of those questions and you might like to come and say to me, but what about this? But what about this? And I’ll do my best.
Let me finish with a little sentence of John Newton. John Newton said predestination was once an offence to me, an offence. The longer I live, he says, the more I am constrained to ascribe all power, all glory to God.
Let’s pray. Let’s bow our heads.
Our Heavenly Father, we thank you that you’ve told us in your word that you have a plan and a magnificent and merciful plan to bring people from here to eternity. And we thank you for the great work you’ve done through your Son. And we thank you for the work you do by your spirit, to wake and to carry and to deliver your people. We pray that you would help us to grasp, rejoice in and live out this great truth. And we ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.